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Basement Tile At the NANA Building in Anchorage


Click on the picture to see a larger image.
12″ x 12″ x 0.7″ Multiglazed tile, Cook Inlet glacier clay, cone 6 oxidation
$350.00

The fish in the center are dolly varden, arctic char, and pike. This tile was the last one of thirteen that I made for NANA Development Corp. and it is outside the elevators on the basement floor. I got a ton of compliments from people that have walked through the building just to look at the art tiles. Had some interesting comments the last time I posted the cut-out that went into making the plate that is impressed into the clay slab, so I decided to add another post but along side the tile that it made. I usually sell my art tiles during the summer, but the winter commissions have been picking up, so I don’t starve during the winters anymore.

A lot of the old art work along the west and north coasts of Alaska had a sort of circular aspect to it because it would fit onto a drum skin or inside a wood food bowl. I used the circular motif on several of the tiles for NANA and on the tile above. The x-ray view of the caribou and the seal is also a style common in the area.

This isn’t tile related but I feel like writing something about native Alaskans. During the superbowl, a local commercial came on saying how over a thousand students have benefitted from the ANSEP (Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program), a part of the University of Alaska system. It made me feel good. I was just the third native Alaskan to graduate from the Anchorage civil engineering program way back in the day, and now it is more common.

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Cut Out For Collagraph Plate

Cut Out Process
Cut Out Process

The last few posts had blurry pictures. I cleaned the lens on the iphone and this picture looks better. Anyway, This is a partial cut out of the 140 lb. cotton rag paper that will be used to make a plate. A collagraph plate is a printmaking term for a process where you just glue stuff to a stiff surface and then use it as a plate. I use a light table to transfer the initial drawing onto the 140 lb paper and then to cut the images out. Notice the “Arches Huile France” water mark on the lower left side of the paper. The plate is thirteen-inches square so that the final fired size of the tile will be twelve-inches after shrinkage. The fish with the zigzags are chum salmon, the fish below are white fish. The smaller caribou make up the upper edge of a birch bark basket.

I can’t complain about 2012! I love to travel and got to go a lot of places. Went to Chicago, Fairbanks, and Seattle for tile related shows. Then Seattle again for a ceramics conference. I Went once again to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Oregon for an end-of-season vacation. And the big one was when me and my sweetheart went to Spain and Portugal.

Tile sales slacked a bit compared to 2011, but I had two winter commissions that more than made up for sagging sales. As a side note to running an art business, I attended a workshop on how to do better on the business side of art, like pricing work, and projecting a friendlier, attentive demeanor when selling at arts & crafts fairs. It was put together for Alaskan Native artists by the First Peoples Fund; they help out indiginous artists internationally when it comes to the business aspect of living the life of an artist.

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Twelve-Inch Tile for NANA Building

Tile for Elevator Lobby in Nana Building
Tile for Elevator Lobby in Nana Building

The tile clay body that I developed from the mudflats glacial clay works well for large size tiles. This tile design is one of fourteen that the NANA native corporation commissioned for the elevator lobbies of their new six-story digs in downtown Anchorage. They want original designs and they don’t mind that I will make more tiles later of the designs made for them. After all, I am a printmaker, and we do make multiples. They don’t have to worry about seeing the designs too often because I don’t sell too many of the larger sizes. They cost a lot. A twelve-inch multiglazed tile costs $350. Of course, they paid a bit more since it is a custom order.

I used a circular pattern of caribou around a few figures in the center. Imagery from Western Alaskan coastal areas often use a circular design since they are drawn usually on a skin drum or in a oval type wood food serving container. One old artist says that for larger figures, an x-ray style of depicting the insides of the animals helps add interest to the drawings.

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Tiles Ready to Spray

Bisque Tiles

Close-up

Nine 4″ plant impressions, two 8″ copperplate etchings, and a bunch of cookie cutter fish with stamps and words. These bisqued fired tiles are about to be sprayed with a high calcium semimatte clear glaze. The fire schedule for a clear semimatte glaze requires a fairly fast cool down so that the glaze doesn’t become milky or fogged up. The dark look of the plant impressions will be somewhat absorbed into the glaze and the finished tile will look lighter. These tiles are for selling at the Alaska Natives Federation (AFN) convention in Anchorage and it is my best show of the year. You can find tons of Alaska native arts and crafts there.

I use four different scheduled firings for the four main glaze processes:
1) clear high calcium semimatte,
2) crystalline glaze,
3) opaque multiglazed,
4) double glaze with a strontium carbinate under a second glaze.

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Sedna with Two Part Glaze

Inuit goddess of the sea, Sedna

Sedna, collagraph print on Cook Inlet clay, double glaze application, 8″ x 8″, $145

The summer selling season is finally over! I was selling tiles at the outdoor Anchorage weekend market, inside the Anchorage Museum, outside at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and at other arts and crafts fairs. There wasn’t time to keep up the posts here at this WordPress blog. In April, me and my girlfriend used airline miles to go to Portugal to visit the largest tile museum in the world in Lisbon, and we added a side trip to Barcelona to look at Gaudi stuff. Prices were very reasonble, outside of the big cities, I don’t think we spent more than $50 a night for hotels. Portugal is nearly covered in tiles! Since coming back, I’ve been searching for decent coffee, because the small cups of coffee that the Portugese make is the best coffee that I have ever tasted. Doppio is the closest that I’ve come to a decent cup here in Anchorage. There was about eight-feet of snow on the ground in Anchorage when we left and it was all gone when we got back.

Anyway, The Sedna tile has an undercoat of two different strontium carbonate glazes covered with my regular glazes, so that the result is a reduction fired surface, but fired in an electric kiln. Ceramics Monthly had an article by Steven Hill early this year describing the process. I like it. I went to a NCECA (National Council of Educators in Ceramic Arts…I think) conference in April in Seattle and saw some bowls with the glaze treatment by Mr. Hill and they were cool.

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Collagraph Plate, Wolves

Plate to print wolves tile.

Plate used to print wolves tile constructed of matte board and 140 lb. cotton rag etching paper. Glued together with gesso and coated with acrylic medium. The plate is good for 100 or so printings. The tiles I print with the plate are therefore a limited edition, handpulled print, but without numbering, and of course on clay instead of paper. They are more valuable than any machine made, mass produced pseudo art tile. The etching paper is the negative space on the plate and the recessed line on the plate creates a raised, printed black line on the clay. I wax the black line and that keeps the different glazes separate in the final firing. The constant wiping with the tarleton cloth slowly wears away the acrylic medium and eventually the gesso. You can see the greying of the edges and smaller areas where the ink is starting to stain the underlying paper. This six-inch design has more color glazes than other designs, it can have ten or more glazes.

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Three Hares

Three Hares
Three Hares

Three Hares, six-inch, $75
Cook Inlet glacial clay art tile with collagraph printed hares in x-ray style of coastal Inuqiaq. Three hares, three ears, yet each hare has two ears! A while back I made a large woodcut (about 3-1/2′ x 5′ – playing card aspect) using a sheet of plywood that required a steamroller to print an image of three hares similar to this tile, and titled the Three of Hares. It was the third steamroller print event put on in Anchorage. The idea for the three hares came about as a piece in a local group show with a theme about St. Francis and a hare that leads other animals to their respective heavens (put together by James Riordan, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage). The image of three hares was in some medieval monastaries and represented the trinity, but of course, the original design is much older, Etruscan, and historians don’t know what significance it had. Someone referred to the tile as the three rabbi’s.

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Caribou

Caribou

X-ray Caribou
Caribou

Six-Inch Caribou, $75
Collagraph print on clay tile body made from local glacial mud flats. The x-ray style, the depiction of the insides such as the ribs and stomach, is common to the coastal native Alaskans such as the Yupiq and Inupiaq (Eskimos). The big dipper to the polar Inupiaq represents a herd of caribou. The polar star that people in lower latitudes refer to as the north star is not used for directions in the arctic because it is over head and unmoving and doesn’t help in determining directions. I’ve seen caribou carcasses in yards in Point Hope, my mother’s village. They were frozen and being eaten by dogs – a kind of old school dog food.

The two newer glaze colors used on this tile are nutmeg for the background and tenmoko gold used for the body. I mix my own glazes and these two were made at the same time, and each glaze, when wet looks like the other glaze’s fired color. It was confusing. This one potter at a craft show asked if I was a “purist” when I told him about making my own clay and mixing my own glazes. I do it because people like that the materials are local and the imagery is a contemporary take on traditional designs. Also, now that I know that hand built, pit fired ceramics were made in my ancestral area of Northwest Alaska for thousands of years, I will someday, test some of that areas clay for use in my tile work.

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Halibut Man

A Shaman in his animal spirit form
6″ x 6″ x 3/8″ Halibut Man, $75
X-ray style shaman in his animal spirit form, the halibut.
Collagraph print onto Cook Inlet glacial clay and oxidation fired to cone 6. I use mat boards with cut out designs to impress images into clay, a raised inked line is waxed and acts as a separator to the different glazes.